Fire danger implications of a jack pine budworm outbreak in the wildland/urban interface

map of 2003 jack pine budworm outbreak in Bemidji

Wildfire in the wildland/urban interface(WUI) is a serious concern for communities at risk. Communities that are located in conifer forests such as jack pine are especially vulnerable to wildfire. Jack pine budworm outbreaks can exacerbate an already hazardous WUI situation by adding to the fuel load, by increasing the likelihood of fire starts---and when they do start, by making them burn hotter, more dangerous and difficult to control.

Jack pine forests are prone to catastrophic crown fires by nature of their inherent volatile composition. Ecologically, jack pine forests have evolved with periodic "stand replacement fires" occurring in a regime of cycling and rejuvenation. Periodic jack pine budworm outbreaks also contribute to this regime by causing mortality and stress in mature stands, thereby improving conditions favorable for burning.

image of jack pine budworm devastation

Trees killed by jack pine budworms add additional fuel available to burn. Additional fuel increases the chances of ignition and fires will burn hotter---undesirable conditions in the WUI from a life-safety stand point. Dead tree removal in the WUI generates slash and property owners? desire to dispose of it by burning, thus increasing the amount of burning being done and chances for fire starts.

How slash is managed and how burning is regulated are important considerations in the WUI. If wildfires are to be prevented, a heightened level of control and oversight is necessary. As important will be a high degree of community awareness of the hazards and taking mitigation actions to reduce them. Alternatives to burning as a means of slash disposal in the WUI would be advantageous.